Raped women in Kashmir have experienced transmutation of suffering — from “victims” to “survivors” to “martyrs” to the cause. These women have pursued lengthy protracted cases in court with no real visible outcome in terms of a judgment. But with their will and drive for justice, they are ensuring that a new generation doesn’t forget. Then there are also women who have been active participants on the streets, Freny Manecksha, the author Of Behold, I Shine, tells Riyaz Wani
me (2)Raped women in  have experienced transmutation of suffering — from “victims” to “survivors” to “martyrs” to the cause. These women have pursued lengthy protracted cases in court with no real visible outcome in terms of a judgment. But with their will and drive for justice, they are ensuring that a new generation doesn’t forget. Then there are also women who have been active participants on the streets, Freny Manecksha, the author Of Behold, I Shine, tells Riyaz Wani

Edited Excerpts from the  •

How do you see the role of women in the resistance and the struggle for Azadi? Has acknowledgment of their contribution been largely rhetorical? What is your book’s aim?

Among the first persons that I met in  was Parveena Ahangar and I learnt of the silent sit-ins at Pratap Chowk every month by men and women demanding state accountability for enforced disappearances. It was my first introduction to the very important role of memorialisation and the way women in  have transmuted their suffering and turned it into a tool against the state’s consistent bid to erase history. This transmutation of suffering into resistance is manifested in many ways, not just by members of the Association of Parents for Disappeared Persons (both groups the one led by Parveena Ahangar and also the one led by Parvez Imroze) but also those women whose husbands/sons have suffered custodial deaths, those who suffered sexual violence at the hands of policemen or militarised personnel and so on. These women have pursued lengthy protracted cases in court with no real visible outcome in terms of a judgment. But with their will and drive for justice that is almost like a “divine mission” they are ensuring that a new generation doesn’t forget.

Then there are also women who have been active participants on the streets. From Zamrud Habib I learnt of their role in the nineties when they would hurl kangris near security camps and protest when the young boys were taken away and of the numerous ways they provided support. In fact the women are still out there. Besides the image of the young college girl giving the finger to the armed forces that went viral, there, are also powerful accounts of women who lay down on the streets in 2016, in an attempt to block the path of Surakshaks (armoured vehicles) from carting away the boys. It was partly to record the role of these “unsung” proponents of azadi that I wrote the book.

In the media and the political space, the conflict in  has largely been articulated by the men. Does women’s articulation nuance this narrative? Does Azadi mean the same thing to Kashmiri women too?

Women’s accounts certainly nuance the narratives. They bring in all the variations and types of violence that has been inflicted on society by occupation and how it is then compounded by patriarchal norms. It is the women journalists and writers who have spoken about the horrific impact of violence on children. They have explored the innumerable ways people’s privacy and dignity is deliberately violated with crackdowns and search operations. I just read an account of how soldiers had once deliberately hung bras and panties of a young woman in the room they searched because she had been outspoken.

And, I am now hearing accounts of the huge surveillance in border towns where not only do you have huge towering checkposts but men with power binoculars. I learnt how toilets were swiftly constructed inside the homes in the nineties because women did not dare to go outside for nature’s call unless it was really dark. In many parts of  they are now employing drones.

Women’s voices articulate all these concerns and in addition they also speak out against the way society reacted to victims of sexual violence, of how widows and half widows were treated. Some young women are now speaking of intersectionality_ of how one must talk about the oppression of an occupation but the necessity as well to also counter oppression of patriarchy. I guess it is the women who are trying to expand the concept of azadi, of what freedom means even as there are some radical forces that are seeking to lay down diktats.

Why in your opinion is national media so indifferent to the complexities of the situation in  and determined to project everything in black and white?

When I was researching for the book I found that the conflict in the nineties was covered by the nationalist media with some amount of sensitivity and sense of balance, or at least compared to the coverage today. I am not sure how and when the complete reversal of truth came about but it probably has to do with the increasing hardening of the state, the current geo political climate and Islamophobia. Over the past few years the electronic media has completely demonized the Kashmiris and is also manufacturing so many myths and fiction. Imagine talking about the love lives of militants! And, not based on any real recordings of people. In a sense this kind of crazy coverage and criminalising people is being extended to all forms of dissent even in .

In past also, you have written extensively about the women in , their trialsand tribulations. For example, you have reported on the mass  in Kunan Poshpora and in your conversations with the people you have noticed that they no longer talk about the raped women in terms of stigma but see them as martyrs to the cause. This is such a leap of faith in a conservative patriarchal society.

I was in  and attended the first hearing in court in 2013 when the asking for opening of the probe in the Kunan-Poshpora case was admitted and I have been following the case ever since. The trajectory from victims to resistance fighters is indeed remarkable. What is equally significant is that this was facilitated by a new generation of young women and the legal team that wants to emphasise that a crime never dies and must not be forgotten. The case is now stuck in the  but there have been some significant outcomes of the struggle for justice. The book “Do you remember Kunan-Poshpora?” is an outcome and it lays bare the ways the state sought to cover up the case — the mysterious ways early medico legal reports by the Block Medical Officer went missing, the bold statements of former District Commissioner S M Yasin and so on. I think this really shows the transmutation of suffering. Of how “victims” can forcibly prove they are “survivors” and yes then “martyrs” to the cause.

Behold I Shine Cover final (LRS) (2)Since you have travelled across the Valley to interact with the women and child victims of the ongoing conflict, what sense did you get of the suffering in the Valley. How endemic is it?

I returned to the Valley earlier this year after the 2016 uprising. I am just so overwhelmed by the horrendous violence that is almost endemic. How does one justify the deliberate targeting of protesting youths with pellet guns? In the month of August alone this year, there are at least 35 youths who have received serious pellet injuries. A senior eye surgeon speaking to the press told of how 16-year-old Sahil Hamid, son of a labourer, in Shopian received perforations through and through in the eyes leaving him totally blind. Is this standard operating procedure? In Kellar a 13-year-old received injuries. Ellen Barry former correspondent of the New York Times wrote last year of “an epidemic of dead eyes.” That epidemic is still raging. Just now I am reading about Shahid Mir, 19, of Handwara whose body with horrendous wounds and a scarred face was handed to his shocked parents. The army claims he was killed and he was a militant, his parents point out he was a student who was picked up by an army convoy. Such horrendous violence is unconscionable.

http://www.tehelka.com/2017/09/women-play-crucial-role-in-jk-struggle/

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NEWS

Srinagar: Independent MLA Engineer Rasheed while condemning the attack on Amarnath Pilgrims said that Kashmiris don’t need lesions on Kashmiriyat (Kashmiri ethos) from those who kill Muslims in the name of cow.

Rasheed, who heads the Awami Itihaad Party while addressing a function in Hadwara said, “Kashmiris don’t need lessons of non violence and Kashmiryat from those who have martyred one lakh Kashmiris during last 27 years.”

He added, “Believing in religious harmony is in our genes. Every Kashmiri condemns the brutal act and being themselves the victims of violence, they can feel the pain of the bereaved families far better than those calling Kashmiris radicals and Wahabis from their TV studios and cozy rooms.”

He stressed that people who are killing Muslims in the name of the cow, should not ask Kashmiris to condemn the attack.

“Those killing Muslims in the name of cows should not give sermons to Kashmiris and ask them to condemn the attack.  May one ask what Kashmiris can do as nothing is in their hands. From an ordinary police cop to Indian Prime Minister, nobody cares about them and hurts them on and off,” Rasheed said.

Rasheed also pointed out if lakhs of troopers have been deployed to protect Yatris, how did the attack take place.

“How can the Government run away from the responsibility of its failure to achieve the goal of protecting Yatris,” Rasheed asked.

The independent lawmaker said that there are dozens of examples when Kashmiris have helped Amarnath pilgrims and have great respect for the Yatra.

He however questioned that ‘fanatics’ need to answer why the Yatra was politicised by ‘forcing’ Yatris to hoist the tri-colour in Pahalgam.

“Why is Yatra also being politicized and who forced Yatries to hoist a tri-color at Pahalgam during their way to Yatra despite knowing that the atmosphere is charged and completely against in Indian state,” Rasheed accused.

http://freepresskashmir.com/2017/07/11/kashmiris-dont-need-lessons-on-kashmiriyat-from-people-who-kill-in-the-name-of-cow/

Kashmir art

These are pictures of loss of childhood and innocence. They speak about a violent world outside shuttered homes. They reveal the terrors of the present and the fears for the future.

The colours are vivid. Red dominates, in blood and fire. Black is an ascendant colour, clouding the skies and scorching the earth. It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

The artwork is by schoolchildren in Indian-administered Kashmir, home to one of the world’s most protracted conflicts. These days, they mostly depict childhoods ruined by the violence of adults.

The meadows, streams, orchards and mountains that make their home “heaven on earth”, as a Mughal emperor once exulted, is missing in much of their work. Stone-throwing protesters, gun-toting troops, burning schools, rubble-littered streets, gunfights and killings are some of the anxious, recurring themes on the canvas.

Last summer was one of the bloodiest in the region for years. Following the killing of influential militant Burhan Wani by Indian forces in July, more than 100 civilians died in clashes with security forces during a four-month-long lockdown in the Muslim dominated-valley.

Security forces fired metal pellets from shotguns into protesting crowds, leaving many blinded. More than 1,200 children below the age of 15 were among some 9,000 people injured in the protests. Most of them, according to reports, were “young, [and] were either blinded completely or lost their vision in one eye”.

As violence spread on the street, schools shut. Children stayed indoors for months, drowning in the noise of TV news. At other times, they read and drew. They missed their friends and cricket games. Teachers gave lessons at home, and parents invigilated during home exams. One school even held an exam in a small indoor stadium.

Media caption“I would hide in a corner of my house’ (Video production: Shalu Yadav and Neha Sharma)
Kashmir art
Kashmir art
Kashmir art

When the schools reopened in the winter, teachers found many of the students irate, nervous and uncertain. They were children of government workers, businessmen, doctors, engineers, bankers and farmers.

They came looking “pale, like zombies”, the principal of a leading school told me.

They cried and hugged each other. Having spent months cooped up in their homes in near-captivity, they asked their teachers why they had closed the school. Some of them behaved strangely. They screamed without any reason, banged the tables and broke furniture. Counsellors were called in to calm them down.

“There was anger, a lot of anger,” the principal said.

Then, some 300 of them went to a school hall and sat down with paper and pastels. And they drew furiously.

“That’s all they did on the first day. They drew what they wanted. They didn’t utter a word. It was all very cathartic.”

‘I cannot see the world again’

The children drew mostly in pastel and pencil. Many wrote over their pictures, using speech bubbles, headlines and sentences.

In many of their pictures, the valley is on fire, and streets are littered with the black detritus of rioting against an incongruent backdrop of a blazing sun and birds in the skies.

Then there are young faces scarred and eyes blinded by pellets. It is a recurring, heart-wrenching theme.

“I cannot see the world again and cannot see my friends again. I am blind,” says the subject of one such haunting image.

Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies, as a poet wrote, but in Kashmir, children have lived in the shadow of death for as long as one can remember. There are bodies lying on the street, and there are people on fire in the paintings.

“These are the mountains of Kashmir. And here’s a school for kids. On the left are army men and opposite them are stone-throwing protesters who are demanding freedom,” said a schoolboy in Anantnag, explaining his drawing.

Kashmir art
Kashmir art
Kashmir art

“When protesters throw stones at the army, the army opens fire at them. In the crossfire, a school kid dies and his friend is left alone.”

The other recurring theme – and nightmare – is the burning down of schools. There’s a powerful picture of children trapped in a school on fire, screaming, “help us, help us. Save our school, save us, save our future”.

Others are angrier and more political.

There are drawings with pro-freedom graffiti, and signposts which say Save our Kashmir in pastels. Others extol Burhan Wani, and resonate with anti-India slogans. There are maps of Kashmir oozing red.

In another village in southern Kashmir, a prominent artist found children drawing Indian flags fluttering on top of their houses.

Rival neighbours

A scowling face of a man split into two is a metaphor for the bitter and festering rivalry between India and Pakistan, and the tragedy of a land sandwiched between the rival neighbours.

There’s a heart-breaking pencil drawing of a mother waiting for her son. The children also vent their frustration over the shutdown of internet and mobile phone services during the protests.

Five years ago, Australian art therapist Dena Lawrence conducted some art lessons with young people in the valley. She found black was the predominant colour in their paintings, and most of them reflected “anger, rage and depression”.

Kashmiri artist Masood Hussain, who has been judging art competitions for children aged four to 16 for the past four decades, says their subjects have changed.

“They have gone from the serene to the violent,” he tells me. “They draw red skies, red mountains, lakes, flowers and houses on fire. They draw guns and tanks, fire-fights and people dying on the street.”

Arshad Husain, a Srinagar-based psychiatrist, says the artwork of the children in the valley betrays their collective trauma.

Kashmir art
Kashmir art

“We think children are too young to understand. That’s not true. They absorb and assimilate everything around them. They express it in their own way,” he says.

“Mind you, most of this artwork is coming from children who stayed at home. Imagine the children on the streets who are closer to the violence.”

It is all reminiscent of children’s art inspired by 9/11: weeping children, the twin towers on fire and being yanked off the ground by Osama Bin Laden against a blood-red skyline, a scarred girl wearing an I Love New York T-shirt.

Kashmir art

In Kashmir, where fairy tales quickly turn into nightmares, hope is not extinguished yet.

Let our future be bright, make us educated, don’t make this crisis a reason for darkness, pleads a girl in a drawing. It’s never too late.

Illustrations gathered from children in Indian-administered Kashmir

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-39801538?ocid=wsnews.chat-apps.in-app-msg.whatsapp.trial.link1_.auin

NEW DELHI: When there is a vacuum, even a tentative effort to fill it is welcome. At least in theory and in the abstract. But when it is applied to volatile Kashmir, where the students of schools are now leading the protests across the Valley, and local youth-turned-militants are openly appearing to give four gun salutes to slain colleagues the little is so insignificant that it can do more harm than good in immediate terms. As if it fails, as it will without sufficient nerve and strategy, it will close even the tiny option that is available at this present juncture.

2017 has changed the nature of protests in Kashmir with now the separatists barely being heard from, except for the odd statement. Till 2016, despite the deep provocation of pellet guns that killed and maimed young people all across, the Hurriyat leaders were still able to retain control over the protests with their strike calls, and protest calls being heeded. But they sensed they were losing control, and as some of them told this writer, “we have no choice but to follow the mass sentiment and keep calling for strikes, as if we don’t no one will listen to us, and you can imagine what will happen then.” The fear amongst the separatist leaders then, as it is indeed now, is that the rebellion will become armed, and that will lead Kashmir and of course India to a situation far worse than the dark days of the early 1990’s.

Three highly significant shifts have taken place in the last few weeks. And this is major by any standards applied to conflict zones.


One, these columns had earlier noted the increasing attendance of local masses in funerals of militants. Till even two years ago such funerals barely drew a crowd. Now in the past weeks, the shift has the masses from not just affected, but also the neighbouring areas, gathering for the funeral of any person killed by the forces in an encounter, or a clash in above the waist firing. But increasingly so the masses are also emerging from their homes to prevent the encounters from taking place, walking determinedly to the spot in a bid to rescue the militants—usually locals now—with the government forces finding it difficult to cope. This is happening repeatedly, even as the spate of ‘encounters’ increase along with the increasing ‘search operations’ launched by the Army.

Two, students have taken over the protests all across the state. Young school children, including girls in large numbers, have taken over literally, clashing with the armed police and the Army, throwing stones, being injured or killed, and yet continuing the fierce demonstrations. This was not so earlier with the stone pelters young adults, with only a few young teenagers visible in the protesting crowds. Now young school students are in the lead, or active participants in direct clashes with the armed government forces. The defiance and the absence of fear for their own lives is the part of the new, more lethal resistance that is building—or indeed has been built—in Kashmir in the absence of even a minimalist ‘reach out’ strategy by the ruling political powers.

Three, as the photographs attached to this article show, the young militants are appearing without masks as such funerals to give a ‘gun salute’ to their fallen comrades. Sources said that militants are now largely local, with the Kashmir protests acquiring a local resistance hue.

Retired Army generals with experience in Kashmir have been writing about the need for a dialogue. The apprehension in the forces is of the return to a situation where the political masters sit back, and actually preside over a direct confrontation between the people and the Army, a situation that most democracies would like to avoid. The Army in India has never been happy about such situations, and even during counter insurgency operations in Kashmir in the 1990s the push was always to get the political leadership to take over control of the areas cleared by the troops. A senior General, now retired and close to the current dispensation in Delhi, told this writer earlier of how necessary dialogue was, and how essential for the political governments to take ownership of the state “instead of leaving management to the Army.” He has not repeated these words in recent months. But others have, with some generals being attacked mercilessly by right wing trolls for even suggesting dialogue.

It is clear that the BJP government is clinging on the sledgehammer as the only approach in its strategic bag. The Opposition knows this, and is making some tentative moves to come together on the issue of Kashmir. The Congress that had completely dropped the idea of the talks—started initially by former Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee with all sections of Kashmiris—has set up a panel to explore the resumption under Dr Manmohan Singh. Others are in talks with the Congress, including BJP leader Yashwant Sinha who has been insisting on talks as the only option. However, it remains to be seen where this effort goes, as many involved, are still hesitant and tentative about their own position on the border state.

If the Opposition steps in it will have to carry its intervention to its logical conclusion, as a start-finish operation will add to the alienation and the despondency in the Valley. It will make it apparent that even the Opposition parties have no strategy for talks, and are not prepared to think out of the box in dealing with the state that is now literally in the throes of what many young people there believe, a ‘do or die’ battle.

(Photographs AASIF SHAHI: 4 armed militants offer a gun salute to slain militant Fayaz Ahmed Ashwar alias Setha from Reshipora Qaimoh in Kulgam district of South Kashmir.)http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/4/10652/Kashmir-Fast-Turning-Into-a–Do-or-Die-Zone-3-New-Indicators

Kashmiri schoolgirls tend to a wounded girl after she was hit by a stone during a protest in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir on 20 April 2017. (Photo: AP)

Image result for Why Some Schoolgirls in Kashmir Are Picking Stones Over Books

Stone-pelting in Kashmir has dominated headlines for a while now. But the third week of April saw the birth of a new face of rebellion, with young girls taking to the front-lines of the protest.

School-going girls picked up stones and stood their ground against gun-toting men in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk. Dressed in school uniforms, and standing tall with bags on their backs, they covered their faces and proclaimed loudly that they had had enough of being told how to lead their lives. The Quint reached out to schoolgirls who had taken to stone pelting on 24 April.

 

“We are not scared. If the boys can come out to protest, so can we,” said Rumaisa (name changed), a 17-year-old student at Kothi Bagh Girls Higher secondary school. The girls seem undeterred by death. “Bullets don’t scare us anymore.”

Twenty-four people, including 12 security personnel, were injured on 17 April as students clashed with police, as colleges opened in Kashmir after a five-day shutdown. Such was the intensity of the protests that security personnel had to resort to using teargas shells inside the campus to bring the situation under control.

Students were seen shouting pro-azaadi slogans as they charged at the security personnel and hurled stones at policemen, who had arrived on the spot armed with teargas shells and pellet guns.

The violent protests first erupted on 15 April, when security forces allegedly raided a college in southern Kashmir’s Pulwama district and assaulted students. At least 54 people were injured in the violence. Two days later, another round of student protests left more than 100 students hurt.

“We are protesting against the manhandling and beating up of students by security forces. The government is now targeting the student community,” said a student at the Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Soura. “If they attack us, we’ll fight back.”

Last week, Iqra (17) sustained a serious head injury after a policeman allegedly hurled a stone at her. Iqra was one of the 100 students from Women’s College, Nawakadal, who participated in a peaceful protest against the police action that had left dozens of college students in south Kashmir’s Pulwama injured.

“Our education is suffering, but how does that matter? Young boys and girls are getting killed. We won’t stop,” another girl student said. “This is going to continue so that eventually we can live peacefully. We can’t go on with our lives when we know our brothers and sisters are being systematically targeted. We can’t forget that Insha lost her eyesight. We can’t forget those 100 young boys who were killed last year.” she added.

Valley Unrest Hurts Education

Education has taken a major hit since the return of tensions in the Kashmir Valley since the summer of 2016. Dozens of government run and private schools were targeted by unidentified arsonists reducing them to smouldering pillars and charcoal frames.

(Adnan Bhat is a Srinagar based journalist.)

 https://www.thequint.com/india/2017/04/28/kashmir-school-girls-join-azaadi-protest-stone-pelters-2

Bloody Sunday

One of the bloodiest polling days in Kashmir’s recent history left 8 dead and over two hundred injured. Zubair Sofi manages to travel through the still seething Budgam to report the tragedies

Funeral of Omar Farooq, Barsoo Ganderbal (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

On the morning of April 9, 2017, Faizan Fayaz Dar, 14, a Class 7 student at local Darul-ul-Uloom, came home and asked his mother to serve breakfast quickly. He wanted to join his friends for a game of cricket at a nearby playground.

A few meters away from him home, a huge contingent of CRPF and police was stationed for polling duty in Government High School, Dalwan village in Budgam.

No one was aware about the pooling booth as it was pitched in the middle of the night.  

Faizan Fayaz Dar

“Faizan left in hurry as his friends were waiting for him in the play ground located next to the polling booth,” says Faizan’s father Fayaz Ahmad Dar, 30, who works as a labourer.

Located at the top of the Karewa Dawlan village overlooked the polling station below. “Villagers could easily see what was happening inside the school premises,” said Dar.

When locals saw CRPF personnels inside the school premises they marched towards the polling booth and asked them to leave. “It was done without any provocation from either side,” recalls Dar.

Locals said the forces asked for fifteen minutes time to wind up their voting machines and leave. “They went inside,” said Adil, a local boy who was playing cricket with Faizan.

After fifteen minutes people saw a large convoy of armed vehicles moving towards the polling station.

“I saw a policeman aiming his gun towards the school,” said Faizan’s friend Rahil. “He fired without any reason. Then he took aim and shot Faizan in the head.”

To save himself Rahil leaned on the ground. “They were firing like madmen. Another fire hit a boy standing next to us,” recalls Rahil. “Fazian was hit in the head. I could see blood coming out of his mouth as well.”

A woman, who was witnessing the scene from a distance, rushed in and wrapped her scarf around Faizan’s head.

As the news of CRPF firing at unarmed boys reached other parts of village, people came out and started pelting stones.

“One of Faizan’s friends came running and said Faizanas Ayei Kalas gouil (Fazian is hit by a bullet in his head),” recalls Dar. “Someone was holding my son in his lap. I checked him and he was dead.”

However huge presence of people around Faizan’s lifeless body forced Dar to take him to the hospital in nearby Pakharpora village. “Emotions were running high that time so I let them take him to the hospital,” said Dar.

Around 1:30 pm thousands of people rushed out to participate in Fazian’s funeral. “He was eldest among three siblings,” said Dar.

But Faizan was not the only one who had received bullet in Dalwan village. “It was difficult to recognize to recognize him but I still remember how badly his head was bleeding,” recalls Adil.

The boy was later identified as Mohmmad Abbas Rahter.

Abbas Rather

“He left home for a walk. Every day he would pick and drop me from my duty,” said Abbas’ father Fatehi Mohammad Rahter, who works in the police department. “I was waiting for him to drop at my office.”

When Abbas didn’t return, his father called on his phone.

“The call was received by some unknown person. I could hear lots of noise in the background as well,” said Abbas’ father. “He informed me that my son was shot in the head.”

Abbas’ father quickly rushed to the school where his son was lying in a pool of blood. Quickly he was rushed to the sub district hospital Chadoora. “They referred him to Srinagar hospital,” said Abbas’ father.

As ambulance carrying Abbas reached SMHS hospital in Srinagar, hundreds of people assembled around it and began shouting pro-freedom slogans.  “They declared him brought dead and handed over his blood drenched body,” said his father. Abbas was Class 10 student.

Abbas’ body was carried through narrow streets and taken for burial. On the way people showered flowers and candies on his funeral.

 

Shabir Ahmad Bhat

Shabir Ahmad Bhat, 20, a resident of Dawlatpora village in Chadoora, Budgam, called his father and asked him if it is safe to come home after he heard reports of clashes.

“I told him there were some minor clashes but it is safe now,” recalls Shabir’s father Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, 51, a labourer. “However I advised him to take a safer route.”

All the forces left from the polling booth which was held Government High School Dawlatpora.  of the same area was stuck in Duniwara after coming back from poultry farm.

At around noon, Shabir left his bike on the poultry farm, where he worked as a labourer, and came back home on foot. Once home he asked his mother to serve lunch.

After lunch he went for afternoon prayers in the local mosque.  “I called him and told him to meet me at our usual spot where we sit down and kill time,” says Shabir’s friend Javeed Ahmad Teli.

They sat down and began chatting about elections and situation in Kashmir. “We were joined by a few other friends,” said Teli. “A few minutes later we heard a few gunshots.”

The forces from the adjacent areas were coming back from polling booth to reach Chadoora from Dawlatpora.

“There was a huge convoy of forces vehicles. They were firing without any reason,” says Nisar Ahmad Bhat, Shabir’s cousin.

When the convoy reached Dawlatpora chowk, they fired towards a lane where Shabir and his friends were sitting.

“While we moved slowly and crossed the road, Shabir got stuck. He tried to run but then suddenly held his left hand on his chest and said Meai Ayyi Shayed Goil (I am hit probably),” recalls Teli.

Slowly Shabir fell down on his face, and blood started coming from his mouth, eyes and nose.

Nisar was on the other side of the road witnessing the entire scene but was helpless to do anything.

“There were four policemen escorting the army convoy and I saw one of them target Shabir,” Nisra recalls. “I saw him fire at Shabir.”

For first five minutes policemen didn’t let anybody near Shabir as he bled on the road. “We picked him only after they left,” recalls Nisar. “He was not moving at all. He breathed his last in my lap.”

However Shabir was taken to district hospital Chadoora where he was declared brought dead.

Shabir was buried in the evening. After the burial his father hosted a green flag on his grave which read: Shaheed tumse ye keh rahe hai, lahoo humara bula na dena (Martyrs are asking you, don’t forget our blood).

Shabir was the main earner of the family and elder among the four siblings – two sisters and one brother.

“I am proud father of a martyr. I feel lucky that my son didn’t die due to disease. He died fighting in the battle,” said Shabir’s father. “We shouldn’t wail, we must feel lucky, we have to be ready for such sacrifices if we really want freedom.”

Amir Ahmad

Around 10 kilometers away in Sogam village, Amir Ahmad Reshi, 17, was spraying pesticides in an apple orchard with his maternal uncle, when clashes erupted in the area.

The reason for clashes was refusal of election staff and CRPF to vacate Government High School, Sogam.

“We told them no one will vote here. It is useless to stay,” said Amir’s friend Bilal. “They agreed and left after handed over the keys. They left peacefully. Even they thanked us for our support.”

Everything was calm when suddenly a few police vehicles reached the village.  “As we were sitting at shop fronts and chatting we didn’t run,” Bilal recalls.

However to everybody’s surprise policemen started firing towards the people. “There was panic everywhere,” recalls Bilal. “I saw a policemen point his gun towards people and fire.”

Amir too started to run for cover when the policeman took aim and shot him in the head.

“A part of his brain fell on the ground. We rushed him to the sub district hospital Chadoora, where doctors declared brought dead,” said Bilal.

Amir was living in Sogam at his maternal home; his real home was at Dadwumpur an area of district Budgam. Amir was the second among his three siblings. “Amir was an outstanding student and wanted to become a doctor,” said Bilal.

On the north side of Budgam a polling booth in Ratsun area of Beerwah, became target of people’s ire. When then officials were asked to leave they sought ten minutes.

“Instead, they called additional forces and surrounded people from all sides,” said Sameer Mir. “This led to clashes.”

NIsar Ahmad Mir

Nisar Ahmad Mir, 25, hid himself behind a brick structure thinking he would be safe there.

“As he peeped out to see if the forces have left, a policeman directly shot him in the head,” recalls Sameer, a friend and an eyewitness. As he fell down other boys tried to save him. “But nobody was allowed to come closer.”

Somehow when people managed to take out Nisar, he was rushed to the sub district hospital Beerwah. He was declared brought dead there. His funeral was attended by thousands as he was laid to rest at the martyr’s graveyard.

Akeel Ahmad Wani

Four kms away in Ratsun village, an area Churumujru Beerwah, a handful of boys hurled stones at the polling booth.

A CRPF personnel, who was hiding behind the brickwork pointed his gun at Akeel Ahmad Wani, 19, and shot him thrice. The last shot hit Akeel in the face and bullet came out of his head. A video of the killing has gone viral on the internet.

“When we learned about Akeel, he was already taken to the primary health centre Gondipora, from where he was referred to sub district hospital Beerwah,” recalls Akeel’s uncle Gulzar.

He was declared brought dead by the doctors. “We reached there ten minutes after he was declared dead,” says Gulzar.

The car in which Akeel’s mother and sister were following his body was shot with pellets by the CRPF men near Sonpah village. Thousands of people from nearby villages came to attend Akeel’s funeral. Akeel was youngest among his four siblings.

Adil Farooq Sheikh

Adil Farooq Sheikh, 19, a resident of Kawoosa Kailsh area of Narbal in Budgam, was preparing for Common Entrance Test after finishing his Class 12 exams. His results are yet to be declared.

His father Farooq Ahmad Sheikh was not worried as clashes were going far from his home, so he thought his son is safe.

While chasing a few protestors forces ran through Adil’s house.

“Adil didn’t move when he saw CRPF men chasing youngsters,” said Farooq Ahmad Sheikh, his father. “Someone from the group suddenly aimed his gun at Adil and fired a few shots.”

It was a pellet shot that had hit Adil in his face and chest.

He was rushed to the JVC hospital, where he was declared brought dead. Adil was second son among his three siblings.

After polling staff began to leave at the end of the day some boys came out and started pelting stones at them in Baroosa village of Ganderbal. In retaliation CRPF men used teargas shells and live ammunition.

After hearing gunshots Amir Farooq Ganie, 22, a driver, quickly went outside to check the situation.

“As soon as he reached to the site of clashes, he saw people running to save themselves from bullets,” an eye witness said. “One bullet hit Omar in the chest.”

After forces left along with the polling staff people quickly took Omar to SKIMS Soura. He was declared brought dead by the doctors. Omar’s family alleged that hospital authorities didn’t handover his body immediately. His parents and two sisters had to wait till dawn to get his body home. A sole bread earner for his family Omar had brought a commercial vehicle a few months back.

On April 8, a minibus was hired to ferry government forces from civil secretariat Srinagar to Chanapora for poll duty.

Ali Muhammad Dagga

The driver Ali Mohammad Daga, 55, was accompanied by the bus owner Ghulam Mohammad Wagay.

He took Batamaloo route to reach Chanapora. There was stone pelting at Batamaloo. Daga had a narrow escape.

Daga took Bemina by-pass route to reach Chanapora, after reaching Tengpora. There were stone pelting too. One of the stones landed on Daga’s front shield and another hit his head.

He lost control over the vehicle and hit the divider.

“Daga and Wagay were taken to the nearest city hospital where Daga was declared brought dead. The dead body was taken to the police control room for autopsy and later handed over to the family,” SHO Batamalo Parvaiz Ahmad said.

Daga is survived by his wife Rafiqa, one daughter Haneefa, and only son Mohammad Yousuf Daga.

THE CITIZEN BUREAU

NEW DELHI: Lt General Harcharanjit Singh Panag, retired from the Indian Army, has been in the news since he tweeted,”image of a ‘stone pelter’ tied in front of a jeep as a ‘human shield’,will 4 ever haunt the Indian Army&the nation!” This let the trolls out and the General was abused and questioned on the social media, with motives being hurled. He took this in his stride, and when The Citizen caught up with him in New Delhi for an interview he brushed the controversy aside saying he was a Twitter veteran. Is he deterred by the viciousness of the attack? He laughed with a “no question of it.”

The interview moved from the tweet, to the Indian Army, to inevitably Jammu and Kashmir.

Excerpts:

Q, What provoked that tweet?

A, (Laughs) Well the Indian army has been conducting counter insurgency campaigns right from 1956– Nagaland, then Mizoram, North East—and since 1989-1990 in Jammu and Kashmir. What distinguishes the Army’s counterinsurgency approach vis a vis all the other armies of the world is that we follow the law of the land. Of course we have the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to protect us but we follow the law of the land. We are the only Army in the world which has been successful in containing insurgency. Mizoram is a classic example. Nagaland–I am talking of the firstNagaland Accord…Manipur… And even in Jammu and Kashmir the situation was brought under control by 2010 and still remains under control. We have followed Army rules and regulations, and when there have been complaints, there have been investigations and over a 100 officers and other ranks have been court martialled and punished for violations.

But this image of a man tied in front of a vehicle not only presented a pathetic image of the treatment of civilians, but also it is a defining image, as defining as some of the images of the Vietnam war. And it is for the whole world to see. I would say that this image will be at the centre of the conscience of the international community and the Indian public. That is why it was so disturbing to me. For the first time I am seeing such a blatant example of human rights violation…

Q. Did you expect this huge response to the one tweet, a lot of it anti- of course

A, Let me put it this way when you are on social media, particularly Twitter on which i have been active for some years, it becomes a no hold barred kind of response, a twitter war starts, this is my 10th or 12th twitter war.

Also ta lot of people with extreme right views are now active on the social media, they have very extreme views on nationalism and also they have placed the army at the centre stage of defining nationalism, as to what nationalism in their view is . Anything you say against the Indian army is also seen as a criticism of nationalism, and of the country.

So this is a very discernible trend I have noticed and consequently even a person like me who has spent 40 years in the Army, in an Army command, also operated in Jammu and Kashmir, comes in their line of fire. For example any suggestion you make which is critical—even of reforms in the ordinary conventional functioning of the Army– is seized upon by the right wing supporters and it becomes a kind of confrontation. And that is how it is.

Q. How do you define nationalism as a soldier?

A, The Indian Army is a patriotic institution. The word nationalism has got a different connotation and I would say that it really does not apply to the armed forces. The Armed Forces are very patriotic, we adhere to the Indian Constitution, what is enshrined in the Constitution.

Q. What do you feel about the increasing trend to deploy the Army in situations within the country?

A, Earlier it was generally believed the armed forces are for foiling external aggression. And to tackle insurgency they would come for a short while and go back. And as the state police failed to handle the situation, the Army was brought in more and more, but the understanding was that the Army would be there for a short while. But what happened, as in Jammu and Kashmir and the North east also, although elections were held and governments came to power in the state, at no time were we able to define a military end state, or for that matter a political end state.

So since the military end state was not defined it seemed to continue for ever. The military is there and we feel that if the military is removed the state will go back to bad times. This hampers the civilian government from functioning, it also creates another authority that is prevailing in a state, and the impact of the long term presence of the Army in a state is resented by the people. And instead of poor administration and the poor policing earning the ire of the people, it is the Indian Army that faces the ire, and this I feel is the biggest harm that has been done to the image of the Army.

But having said this, I must also say the entire spectre of conflict has undergone a change and there is an overlap taking place all the time. The term that has now become popular now is hybrid warfare, that every war will involve all these things simultaneously. So a situation like Kashmir may have an insurgency, may have a civil disobedience dimension, mass agitations and also an element of conventional war. So if it is going to be hybrid warfare then I suppose there is no option but for the Army to remain involved, and also to learn the nuances and master these.

In Jammu and Kashmir, if not be design, then at least our functional approach we have learnt this and are prepared to deal with the hybrid nature of the conflict.

Q. Has the Indian Army been impacted by politicisation like many other institutions?

We are probably a real reflection of our Constitution. I have never felt that within the army there is any kind of discrimination in terms of race, colour, caste, religion.We respect and honour all. In every organisation there are imperfections, but these have been aberrations. Army has been free of all this. The Army has never involved itself in the politics of the country, except for voting, we remain aloof.

Q. So how do you see Jammu and Kashmir panning out?

There are aklways two angles to conflict –one is the military angle, one is the political angle. All conflict, all insurgencies are fought for a political gain, both by the state but also the insurgents. For of course different motives. The state wants to establish its supremacy and ensure the well being of the people; the insurgents want to gain control. The general public is caught in a bind, it has a sentiment against the government for past issues because of which the insurgency started in the first place; at the same time it wants stablity, a normal life, want to raise children, well being…

The second part is the military aspect, the terrorists fight the military to bring it down to convince the people that they call the shots. The state strategy is to protect the population, finish the insurgents and bring back normalcy.

Although there has been a see saw, the militants have lost the military battle. They first lost it by 1995 and when the Pakistan terrorists came in, it picked up, it peaked in 2003 and thereafter there was a decline. The military battle has been won by the state and the military strategy has been eminently successful. Counter insurgency has been very effective, and can be even further improved with ease.

Where we have failed and where the terrorists have made significant reach is in the political battle, more so from 2010 after the Machil incident. 110 boys were killed in protests in that year, and the public discourse started moving towards the terrorists. Maybe it was that the public had invested in insurgency over the years and suffered, and suddenly realised nothing much has been achieved. And of course the controllers of the insurgency, be it the terrorist leaders or Pakistan that is a main player, changed tactics to mass agitations, intifada kind of tactics, action, reaction.

This happens when there is a political vacuum. And this has been filled by the terrorists, by the insurgents. They have taken the initiative. We only relied upon elections, and we felt that the regional political parties will manage. But such a corrupt state, the democratic governments of the state have not been able to deliver on stability or on good governance. So much money has been sent to Kashmir but the situation is worse than the so called bimaru states of India.

That is why we need a political initiative from the centre like that taken by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee and later Dr Manmohan Singh. This led to ten years of peace, till 2013.

There is a requirement for the centre to step in. I still think all has not been lost. Although political statements have been made the government has not made a single statement that counters the existing policies that successive Indian governments have followed. The government has so far adhered to that.

A political initiative from the very top can check the situation. But the political vacuum must be filled and we have to hold talks with the stakeholders. I am a firm believer that Pakistan is not a stakeholder in Kashmir and talks with Pakistan must be stopped. Every time we say Pakistan is to blame means that Pakistan has greater control on Kashmir than we do, that we cannot control Jammu and Kashmir.

Stick to the rule that talks will be within the Constitution. Sky is the limit, please define your sky.

Jammu and Kashmir police is the best force in the state after the Army. Despite all the problems the police has remained steadfast, it has never rebelled, it has never done anything wrong. It is very efficient, it is the mainstay of the counter insurgency campaign.

I am of the view that when the situation is calmer— we could have done this in 2010, in 2013 also, but the situation is volatile so a little later, we must remove the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from parts, 10-15 km belt or even 20 km belt along the Line of Control is where AFSPA should apply., Thereafter as we progressively applied it, we must progressively lift it.

Army must focus on counter infiltration, 70 per cent of the force should be put in counter infiltration posture, and keep a reserve of 30 per cent. Counter insurgency in the Valley should be given to the Jammu and Kashmir police and the Central Reserve Police.We can easily raise additional battalions. This was done in Punjab, the police took charge, the rest is history.